Super Mario Bros.
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (25th June 2022).
The Film

"Super Mario Bros." (1993)

Mario (played by Bob Hoskins) and Luigi (played by John Leguizamo) are New York City plumbers who suddenly find themselves transported to an alternate dimension in which evolved dinosaurs and reptiles are in control, led by the almighty and evil King Koopa (played by Dennis Hopper). Koopa is looking to merge the dinosaur and human worlds together, and the key that is necessary is a piece of a meteorite that is held by Daisy (played by Samantha Mathis). She gets kidnapped by Koopa's cousin goons Iggy and Spike (played by Fisher Stevens and Richard Edson), but unbeknownst to them, Daisy gave the Mario Brothers the meteorite piece beforehand, who are looking to save her and make sure that the rock doesn't fall into the wrong hands.

Producers Roland Joffé and Jake Eberts approached Nintendo to bring their flagship mascot Mario into the live-action cinematic realm after the company's massive success with video games as well as the animated works. There was the "Super Mario Bros. Supershow!" which had some live action skits starring former wrestler Lou Albano in the title role plus some animated story segments that followed the games lore to an extent, but the producers were looking for a bigger and better adaptation. Nintendo gave them the permission based on their initial pitch ideas, and that led to the hiring of a director to take on the ambitious project, as it would be the first time a video game would be adapted into a feature lengthy live action film. The husband and wife duo Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel, who had a lengthy resume in the music video and commercial world as well as developing the cult hit TV series "Max Headroom" were hired for the project, who looked at developing the film into something closer to the 1989 "Batman" reinventing the iconic character for cinema, and their original script featured a much darker and adult tone.

The production would pull together a number of production teams to create the visual effects using new digital technology with computer animation as well as employing traditional filmmaking techniques with puppeteering and a massively constructed set within an abandoned cenemt factory as the alternate New York. But with the independent production, there were issues with financing, and that meant bringing in distributors to contribute, including Hollywood Pictures, the live-action arm of Walt Disney Pictures, and that meant demands and changes to the story to make things more kid friendly. But with production already underway and changes being difficult, frequent quarrels between the directors, the producers, and distributors meant updated rewrites continuing in pre-production as well as during production. Actors who signed on to the initial script were baffled by sudden changes, other staff were uncoordinated due to the last minute additions and subtractions, leading to a mess of a production that went highly overbudget, had constant tonal changes, and numerous plotholes due to excised ideas or changed situations.

Comparing the "Super Mario Bros." movie to the games, there are numerous references but story-wise there is little to be connected. The plumber Mario Bros. trying to resue a princess is possibly the only thing that is identical, but to be fair the plot of the Mario games are extremely thin. Are there people that played Mario games for the plot? Definitely not, as the gameplay was always the main draw. Adapting that to a movie meant a lot of liberties had to be taken and more ideas had to be fleshed out. The main characters of Mario and Luigi are obviously at the center, though their relationship has been changed to the two of them not being actual brothers but Luigi being adopted and Mario basically raising him. As to how this happened, such as if Mario was the one that adopted Luigi or if Mario's parents adopted Luigi... none of this is explained. Princess Peach (or Toadstood, which she was known at the time in the English speaking world) is not in the film but Princess Daisy, who debuted in "Super Mario Land" plays Luigi's love interest in the film version, which was interstingly the relationship that became cannon in the later Mario games. In the Japanese version of the games, the final boss Bowser was named King Koopa, and for the film version is called by his Japanese name. Characters such as Iggy, Spike, Toad (played by Mojo Nixon), and Big Bertha (played by Francesca P. Roberts) are all named after characters in the Mario universe, with some liberties taken. Production design does look closer to "Blade Runner" which should be no surprise since designer David L. Snyder worked on both productions, though there are numerous Mario references made. Signs reading "Hammer Bros.", "Thwomp", and "Boom Boom" are references to enemy characters, wall tiles, hairstyles, and other background details have nods to the various Mario games that were released up to that point. Most impressive is the puppeteering of the baby dinosaur Yoshi, which was done practically. While his scene is incredibly short and basically has little purpose except to showcase the effects, it is a worthwhile scene though it could have been much more. Goombas as the guards are an odd touch, having tiny heads on giant bodies, rather than how they were depicted in the game as giant heads on tiny bodies. The production was able to pay homage to the original games in many ways, but for fans of the games, they wouldn't see these as homages but wrong depictions of beloved characters. While there was a lot of creativity and innovation on set, these darkness and cyberpunk inspired works didn't quite fit in with the comical tone of the film's characters.

There is a lot of humor in the dialogue, from the banter between Mario and Luigi, the straightfaced seriousness of main villain Koopa and his one liners, the constant stupidity of Iggy and Spike, and much more. They may give a few chuckles here and there, but the humor is a bit on the juvenile side that won't give a huge amount of laughs. As also mentioned, the plot points make little sense. How do Iggy and Spike know that the Mario Bros. have the meteorite piece when they tell Koopa? Why did Koopa wait so long to try and search for Daisy? Why doesn't Koopa just kill the devolved fungus king? There are much more to list but much of it must have to do with the constant rewriting not being able to piece things together properly. There were constant fights on set between the directors, the actors, and other staff, with Hoskins and Hopper being the most outspoken in the terrible nature of the uncontrolled environment. The directors had only one feature film to their credit and they weren't in complete control due to various outer factors. Yet somehow, some of the performances were quite good. Hopper is always an excellent villain and he made sure to make Koopa memorable as a sly and coniving political figure. Hoskins changed his English accent to a perfect Italian New Yorker with heft and fun. Leguizamo gave the awkward Luigi charm and was a great counterpart to the older Mario.

Due to the production going overschedule and overbudget, directors were essentially replaced with the producers finishing the necessary work, and the editing was done without their involvement. Test audiences who save a preview cut were initially confused by the two worlds so an animated prologue was created with narration by Dan Castellaneta and some scenes were trimmed down. The film opened on May 28th 1993 for Memorial Day Weekend in the United States with a lot of hype and support from gaming magazines and television advertisements. The reception was lackluster, grossing $8.5 million and opening in fourth place that weekend, eventually grossing only $20 million theatrically in America. Internationally it grossed an additional $17 million, but it was not enough to cover its $40+ million production costs. In addition, two weeks later another dinosaur themed film titled "Jurassic Park" came and crushed the competition, grossing a staggering $47 million on its opening weekend alone, eventually grossing $978 million worldwide. The "Super Mario Bros." movie was a massive bomb and was quickly brushed off by critics who were unkind to it and audiences that didn't care for it. There was some love for the film, and a cult audience continued to support it for its fun as well as its flaws, but home video releases were lackluster at best, with no significant extras. Fans were desperate to see deleted scenes or behind the scenes stories, but that would not come until the 2010s.

A videotape of a workprint edit of film featuring deleted scenes was finally uncovered in 2019. There were unfinished scenes, no introduction, missing music and effects, and most importantly scenes that were later deleted. One of the biggest mysteries of the film was the "devolution" scene in which the Mario brothers push Koopa into the machine, and were able to do that easily because the floor was slippery with green goo. But it was a mystery as to where that green goo came from since it wasn't on the floor in the earlier portion of the scene. The workprint cut had the uncut sequence which explained the mystery, and also explains the final slime demise scene better. There were others such as Iggy and Spike rapping and more interaction with the Mario brothers' rivals the Scapellis and more. There has been an effort to use the videotape source to reinstate the deleted scenes into the theatrical cut, which has been blogged on the SMBMovie site.

This Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray release presents both the theatrical version as well as for the first time in the world, the extended workprint cut on the disc as a bonus.

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray

Video

Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in two versions, with the theatrical cut in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4 and the extended workprint cut in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio in 1080i60 AVC MPEG-4. The theatrical cut comes from an HD master by Pathe! Pictures and is quite good. Stability is excellent, colors are excellent throughout from the brighter streets of New York to the darker tones of the alternate dinosaur world, with natural skintones. Damage is extremely minimal while film grain is kept intact throughout for a very natural filmlike appearance. Fans will definitely be pleased with the image quality (which looks basically identical to the UK Blu-ray from eight years ago).

For the extended workprint cut, it is taken from a standard definition videotape and upscaled to 1080i. The video quality is fairly poor to say the least, with very washed out colors, blurry detail, and a cropped aspect ratio. There are some tape errors to be seen at the beginning and at the bottom of the frame, a timecode counter being visible, though it is still in a fairly watchable state. It's not recommended for audiences to sit through this version first, but should be more of a curiousity piece for fans available in its entirety.


For the extended workprint cut, Umbrella Entertainment has gladly started it with a 46 second text screen displaying where exactly the deleted scenes are as follows:

"The Riverfront Cafe Part 1" 4:22 - 4:45
"The Riverfront Cafe Part 2" 6:03 - 6:44
"The Sneezing Tech Gets Slimed" 38:18 - 39:13
"Lena Enters Mudbath" 46:59 - 47:38
"Luigi & Mario and Iggy & Spike Discuss Democracy" 62:38 - 63:05
"Iggy & Spike's revolutionary Rap" 68:08 - 69:16
"Koopa's Pizza Finally Arrives" 106:30 - 106:42
"Iggy & Spike Consider Coup" 107:34 - 107:46

Also for convenience, there are chapter stops given for all eight of the scenes for people who would like to skip to those scenes instantly.


The runtime for the theatrical cut is 104:48 and the extended workprint cut is 112:04.

Audio

Theatrical Cut:
English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo
Extended Workprint Cut:
English LPCM 2.0 stereo

The theatrical cut has the original Dolby Stereo track encoded lossless, while the workprint cut's audio is presented uncompressed. The theatrical cut is a very active track with great use of the left and right channels for the various music cues from Roxette, Divinyls, George Clinton and others sound excellent, along with the various sound effects in the car chases and weapons coming to life. Dialogue is always centered and well balanced against the music and effects. It may only be a 2.0 track, but it certainly sounds great with the very good sound design.

The workprint cut's audio is a bit on the muffled side, as it comes from a standard definition tape source. In addition it is not a finished audio track so there are some missing sound effects, missing music cues, as well as some lines that are looped by temp staff. It's as expected considering the source.

There are optional English HoH subtitles for the theatrical cut in a white font, which are easy to read and well timed for the most part. There were a few occasions that the subtitles disappeared from screen before the line was fully spoken. There are no subtitles for the workprint cut.

Extras

"This Ain't No Video Game" documentary (55:50)
This 2014 documentary produced by Severin Films is an all encompassing retrospective look at the film's production with no holds barred. Featuring newly recorded interviews with Joffe, Morton, Jankel, Bennet, Leguizamo, Edson, plus many more staff and cast members, they are able to discuss all the positives as well as the frustrations of the troubled production. Discussed are the initial pitch to Nintendo, hiring the directors, the constantly changing vision for the film due to various interference, the innovative special effects both practical and digital, the trouble the cast had with the constant rewrites on set, the reshoots, the release, the reception, the cult following and more. An absolutely essential documentary that answers a lot of the questions that fans had asked over the years. Note this was originally released on the UK Second Sight Blu-ray release.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

"Making Of" featurette (18:17)
This vintage featurette features a good amount of interviews with the cast and crew members on set and behind the scenes, along with clips from the film, B-roll footage and more to promote the then upcoming film. Note this was also available on the UK Second Sight Blu-ray release.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

Original electronic press kit with cast interviews and behind the scenes (31:17)
The above "Making Of" was actually edited from the original press kit materials from Hollywood Pictures, the US distributor, which is presented here in its entirety and separated by chapters. First is a six minute short featurette that is a very basic overview of the film. Then there are about seven minutes of quick soundbites from the cast and crew. The next six minutes are dedicated to B-roll footage of a number of scenes. Finally there are "Promo Clips and Trailer", in which there are seven completed scenes from the film plus the original theatrical trailer. While the source is from an analog tape, it is in very good condition, with no issues of tape errors or sound issues. Note this was also available on the UK Second Sight Blu-ray release.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

Galleries:
- Storyboards; Original Climax (4:46)
- Storyboards; Extended Devo Sequence (1:41)
- Storyboards; Koopa's Devolution (0:21)
- Storyboards; Koopa's Demise (0:56)
- Storyboards; Inter-Dimensional Merging (0:36)
- Weapons (0:56)
- Vehicles (0:41)
- Rob Burman Koopa Effects (2:06)
- David Nelson Yoshi Photos (0:26)
- Dino Human Make-up Effects (1:31)
- Mel [Make-up Effects Lab] Goomba Prototype (1:16)
- Walter P. Martishius Set (2:31)
- David L. Snyder Production Design (1:52)
- Joseph Porro Costume Design (4:21)
- Patrick Tatopoulos Creature Concepts (1:01)

A very extensive gallery is presented here in automated silent slideshow form. The storyboards are quite fascinating, as they include some scenes that were unfilmed, deleted, or just impossible with their limited budget. The merging scene is a disappointing one in the final film but the storyboards show it was much more ambitious in concept. Also included are photo galleries of weapons and vehicles, the dinosaur and Goomba designs, the costumes including some fairly racy ideas that were not fully seen in the final film, and much more. Note that many of the galleries were first included on the UK Second Sight Blu-ray, though the are a few exclusives on this Umbrella release. The merging, weapons, vehicles, and Goomba protoype galleries are the exclusive ones here.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4

US Theatrical Trailer (1:42)
This is the same trailer as featured in the electronic press kit, though the picture and sound quality is a bit better. Interestingly some of the shots are windowboxed in 1.85:1 while most of it is in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Note this was also available on the UK Second Sight Blu-ray release.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles


When the film was released on the DVD format, they included either no extras at all or with just the trailer only, On the Blu-ray format it was first released in the UK by Second Sight with all the extras noted above, then later in Japan by TC Entertainment which ported all the extras from the Second Sight Blu-ray. The Umbrella Blu-ray does it a bit better in the extras department by including additional galleries plus the long lost workprint cut. Unfortunately the 5.1 audio track is not carried over, though to say the original 2.0 stereo track is fairly good nonetheless.


Other notable clips:



James Rolfe of Cinemassacre reviews the film.


The Gaming Historian on the film's production and release.


John Leguizamo's 20th Anniversary Message


Exploring the Super Mario Bros. (1993) Extended Rough Cut Pt. 1: Nobody Touches My Tools


Exploring the Super Mario Bros. (1993) Extended Rough Cut Pt. 2: It's More Than Just Death


Exploring the Super Mario Bros. (1993) Extended Rough Cut Pt. 3: Koopa, The Party Poopa

Packaging

The inlay is reversible, with the only difference being the Australian PG rating logo being removed from the cover on the opposite side.

Overall

"Super Mario Bros." was an ambitious project that turned into an absolute mess, yet somehow retains rewatchability. The Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray features a great transfer with video and audio along with great extras as well as the long sought after workprint cut as a bonus. Highly recommended.

The Film: C Video: A- Audio: A- Extras: B+ Overall: B+

 


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